Chhokar murder: Accused to stand trial in February

THE MAN accused of the 1998 murder of Surjit Singh Chhokar in Overtown, North Lanarkshire will stand trial in February next year.

The Chhokar family's solicitor, Aamer Anwar, and Manjit Sangha, the sister of Surjit Singh Chhokar. Picture: PA
The Chhokar family's solicitor, Aamer Anwar, and Manjit Sangha, the sister of Surjit Singh Chhokar. Picture: PA

Ronnie Coulter, 47, from Wishaw, denies killing 32-year-old Mr Chhokar while acting with two other men.

Mr Coulter was not present in court today having been excused attendance at a previous hearing.

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His QC Donald Findlay today told judge Lord Burns that Coulter has ‘significant memory and concentration problems.”

Surjit Singh Chhokar. Picture: Contributed

However, Mr Findlay added: “I anticipate no difficulties in being ready for trial.”

Lord Burns was told that there would have to be frequent breaks during the trial to ensure that Coulter was following the evidence.

At the High Court in Glasgow, Lord Burns set the trial, which is expected to last for five weeks, down for February 1, 2016, at the High Court in Glasgow.

Advocate depute Stewart Ronnie handed Lord Burns a letter from Mr Chhokar’s family and said: “Given the poor health of his father they want the trial to be held as quickly as possible.”

Lord Burns said: “Regrettably, there is nothing the court can do.”

Prosecutors claim that Coulter was acting with two other men - Andrew Coulter and David Montgomery - at the time of the alleged attack.

The murder charge includes allegations that Mr Chhokar was punched and prevented from defending himself.

He is then said to have been hit with a wooden baton before Coulter repeatedly struck him with a knife and killed him.

It is further alleged that Coulter did previously “envince malice and ill-will” towards Mr Chhokar.

Coulter is also accused of attempting to defeat the ends of justice - which include claims he got another person to hide clothes worn during the alleged murder and a case of knives.

Coulter is further accused of later attempting to pervert the course of justice with “intent to avoid “detection, arrest, prosecution and conviction”.

He also faces earlier claims that on the day of the alleged murder, he forged the signature of Mr Chhokar to help cash a £100 giro cheque.

He is then accused of joining Andrew Coulter to break into Mr Chhokar’s home in Wishaw and steal a cooker.

• This article incorrectly stated that the trial of the accused, Ronnie Coulter, would take approximately five years. This has now been corrected.